Saturday, February 14, 2009

The parents are coming! The parents are coming!

My parents are coming to visit me this weekend. I have lived here a total of 22 months, and they have never visited me here. But now they are coming. And I don't want them to.

It was a very last minute plan. Here's a summary of our correspondence:

Dad: Hi, Mom has vacation next week [she's a schoolteacher, and in our school system, schools have a week off in February] and I have President's Day off, and she's feeling like she has nothing fun to do all week, so we thought we could come visit you. As long as you don't have any plans or anything...
Me: No, I don't have plans [I can't outright lie, and I definitely don't have plans]. But what would you do here? It's kind of cold and gray, and the only interesting things to do around here are in the summer--there's not even a good movie theater in town.
Dad: Well, we'll think about it.

Dad: Hi, we decided we won't come after all, it's just not the right time of year, and it's too last minute.
Me: [thinking Yay, I'm off the hook, but saying...] Oh, that's too bad, I was thinking if you did come, we could have gone into the city or something.

Dad: Mom's ears perked up when you mentioned the city, so now we've decided we will come down, after all. We'll probably get there tomorrow afternoon.
Me: Great...

Yes, when your parents invite themselves to visit, you start listing the reasons they shouldn't come. Once they decide not to come, then you can sound sad and tell them how nice it would have been if they had come. But be careful not to pile it on too thick, or they just might change their minds and come after all. And then you're stuck. I learned this the hard way.

Now don't get me wrong, I love my parents. I'm really lucky to have such great parents. When I think about it, it really doesn't make sense that I don't want them to come. Why am I being such a petulant teenager? Shouldn't I have grown out of this by age 23? Have I really not changed since high school?

It's true--by the end of high school, I was dying to get out of my parents' house. College was the best thing ever. Freedom. Freshman year, I would go back to school early at the end of each vacation, eager to get out of the house and back to my college friends. But by the end of college, I was more nostalgic about being home, and I looked forward to vacations and would stay home the whole time. I was finally mature enough to see how sweet my parents were, and how much they missed their little girl when I was away for a long time. Now that I'm out of college, and I see them even less often and am even more removed from the high school years living under their roof, I miss them and get a little homesick after a while. And I love to visit them--it's so relaxing, and they're always so nice and happy to see me. I was all teary-eyed when I drove away at the end of Christmas vacation last month. So I like to visit my parents. But how do I feel about them visiting me?

When my parents would visit me in college, it was fine. It usually involved them taking me and some of my friends to a nice restaurant, which my friends certainly liked, and I took pride in my parents getting to meet my nice, mature friends, and in my friends meeting my cool parents (well, cool as parents go). Besides, my parents had actually graduated from the same college, so they knew the campus, plus they helped me move in to my dorm room each year and were of course the ones paying for me to be there in the first place. It kind of felt like they belonged there when they visited. They were still entitled to a certain ownership.

But that is not the case here. I applied to this job without their knowledge, and I moved down here by myself. I live here entirely independently, supporting myself in every way. This is my place, a symbol of my independence, and a world separate from my parents. Their coming here is an encroachment on my turf. Plus, I'll have to do some cleaning before they arrive.

It will probably be a fun weekend, one more productive and memorable than if I'd done whatever it is I usually do on weekends. It will be nice to see my parents. And they'll love seeing me, and I'm a sweet daughter who likes making them happy. But I can't help but feel that the more of my world they see and know, the less of it is my own. It's like a delicate illusion that fades on touch. I guess I am not as confident and secure in my life in the Real World as I'd like to think.

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